Friday, December 01, 2006

December 2006 Activity -- Champagne Tasting

Sunday, December 17, 2006
Best Cellars Clarendon
Arlington, VA
Cost: $22

What a fitting way to end the dilettante year -- a champagne tasting that combines our loves of dilettante activities and boozin' it up.

We began the evening with tapas at Las Tasca in Clarendon. We reminisced about the year as dilettantes, talked about what activities we could plan in 2007 and generally just discussed why we are so much fun. Amanda then presented each of us with a fabulous dilettante gift -- Dilettante brand chocolates, a silver "D" ornament and customized postage stamps with a picture of one of our dilettante activities. Of course, her packages were wrapped beautifully and the bows had tons of "oomphy poomphy."

After dinner, we walked up the street to Best Cellars for the sparkling wine tasting. We immediately noticed some scha-weet looking gift bags on the counter and assumed they would be ours at the end of the evening. This was looking promising. When the tasting started and we saw that there would be a total of seven samples from many different price ranges, it also looked promising. Then, we received our glasses and our first (very generous) sample and knew we'd made a nice choice on this activity. In addition to very generous samples, there was cheese, crackers and olives to munch on and pitchers of water available to cleanse palates.
Because wine descriptions are hilarious, we selected some of our favorites from the sheet that was provided. To wit:
  • gossamer soft and a whisper on the riotous side of sweet
  • a superb gift for anyone who appreciates pink-pleasure in their mouth (go ahead...insert your own husband's name here, as we all did)
  • boasts a rare level of refinement and powerful finesse
  • want to garner red carpet-worthy attention at your next party? pop the top of this fun, flirtatious fizzy and we guarantee you'll be the center of attention (ridiculous, right? guess which bottle every last dilettante bought? This one, a Fox Creek Vixen Sparkling Shiraz)
  • a darker note of ripe red fruit bringing up the rear
The woman providing the commentary for the tasting knew her stuff and had lots of good information. We tasted some really interesting sparkling wines...including one that went well with "small nuts and salty things" (sheesh...they make this so easy for us).
The only downside of the evening occurred when Amanda sneezed and a woman next to her moved about four feet away from her as though she were Typhoid Mandy. Amanda was all like, "oh no she di-int" and we were all like, "oh yes she did" and then we decided that we'd be mature and just lick her gift bag before handing it to her.

Gift bags included mulling spices, a big jar of raspberry caramel sauce, chocolates, wine biscuits and a coupon for $5 off a purchase at that Best Cellars, which each of us used for the Vixen wine.
And so a bunch of happy dilettantes went on their way.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

November 2006 Activity -- Wreath Making

Saturday, November 18th, 11:00am-12:00noon
Arlington Westin Gateway Hotel
Arlington, VA

This wreath making workshop was part of the Junior League of Northern Virginia Enchanted Forest Fundraiser.
Now, two of your dilettantes were members of the Junior League of Northern Virginia for a short amount of time (of course, we're dilettantes!) and found the grown-up sorority aspect of it all a little much, replete with passwords to enter meetings (who knew they were such sticklers?), refreshment committees, and the members continually buying more of the raffle/fundraiser tickets themselves than selling them to other people. Combine that with paying dues to have friends and we both decided we'd been there/done that in college and this time we didn't have the benefit of formals or keggers to make it palatable. (Let's just say we were not Sigma Psyched.)
But I digress, the most frustrating thing about the Junior League is HOW HARD IT IS TO SIGN UP TO PARTICIPATE IN THE EVENTS THEY SPONSOR. Jesus Christ! It's a good thing we REALLY wanted to do this (okay, we kind of wanted to do it and it worked with all of our schedules). That motivated me to work through finding out what the dates were for this event (saw no advertising), getting half-information on the JLNV web site (do we get to keep the wreaths we make? that's not the case with the gingerbread we didn't know), e-mailing three or four different officers and then leaving an (unreturned) voice mail. Finally, I received a registration form that I was to complete and FAX on-line registration. Oy vey! (Kindly note my uber-inclusive usage of both Christian and Jewish imprecations.)
Anyway, we got to the Westin that day to participate, parked the car ($15 valet parking) and went into the hotel. The wreath-making workshop had about 40 people in it, all separated into round tables of about six people each. A charming woman named Lourdes was the workshop instructor. She could make a bow like nobody's business and spent about 45 minutes of the 60 minute workshop lovingly crafting bows while explaining to us how to do it. That was all great, but after the "grab your supplies" free-for-all and getting back to our tables so we could fluff our wreaths (yes, we were fluffers...imagine if this post had focused on that'd be so much more interested right now, dear reader), we had about 15 minutes to complete our wreaths and get the heck out of that room.
This was no problem for Amy "Bow Showoff" Schirmer, who had a gorgeous bow completed in about a nano-second, or for Amanda "Double Ribbon Bow Extraordinaire" Lonsdale, but Nicole and I were a little slower on the uptake. Lourdes offered to go around to the tables and help those who were a little less crafty to get their bows completed, but also liked to stop and admire those bows that were already done. With about five minutes left, I, Kathleen "Crankypants" Canedo, got a little hostile with sweet Lourdes, snapping at her about three times as she stood across the table from me adding "movement" to Amanda's bow, while Nicole and I still didn't even have the beginnings of one. Finally, she made my bow for me, and then made Nicole's for her. We each added a few sprigs of gold berries and some gold ornaments and Voila! homemade wreaths!
The dilettante day ended with lunch (and beers) at nearby Rock Bottom Brewery. Nothing like the sweet, golden nectar to melt away a case of the crankypants.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Dilettantes make the Washington Post

The Dilettante Club gets some press:

Party Animal
Dirty Dirndls: Oktoberfest by Way of Oakton
By Christina Ianzito
Sunday, October 29, 2006; Page W11

Kathleen Canedo, 39, and Amy Schirmer, 35, can't really explain the roots of their annual Oktoberfest celebration. They just wanted to throw a themed party and somewhat randomly settled on Oktoberfest, a Bavarian festival that revolves around beer. "There's no real connection for us," says Kathleen, a 39-year-old freelance writer, "other than we like to drink beer, eat German food and say 'wiener' a lot."

Amy Schirmer, Kathleen Canedo, Amanda Lonsdale and Nicole Bono sport dirndls. (Nicholas Roberts - Nicholas Roberts For The Washington Post)

Tonight, for their fifth Oktoberfest, they've set up semi-authentic-looking striped tents next to the pool in Kathleen and Tim Canedo's back yard in Oakton. Long tables are decorated with blue-and-white Bavarian flags and little plastic "windup hopping lederhosen," which were purchased, along with packages of sticky false mustaches, on Invitations included the "Top 10 Oktoberfest Pickup Lines." No. 7: "What do you say we explore each other's hinterlands?"

The party gives Kathleen and Amy an excuse to sashay around in St. Pauli Girl-esque dresses, called dirndls. "We both love dressing up," says Kathleen,who is wearing a demure blue number tied with a purple apron. She bought it a few years ago on eBay, choosing not to go the "dirty dirndl" route, she says, pointing to her friend Nicole Bono, 27, who is wearing a short, poofy, leg-baring version and two ponytails tied with red ribbons.

"Nicole's our youngest friend who can still get away with that," sighs Kathleen, though her mother, Karen Steenberg, arrives in a low-cut, bright-red dirty dirndl that she happily admits is "inappropriate."

About 40 family members, friends and friends of friends drink from a keg of Spaten beer and eat a spread from German Gourmet in Falls Church: bratwurst, knackwurst, potato salad, two kinds of sauerkraut and hot pretzels. German oompah-pah music drifts from a CD player. Some of the male guests sport real lederhosen, also courtesy of eBay, and a few others -- including Tim -- wear T-shirts or aprons printed with a picture of lederhosen. Close enough.

Nobody's taking this too seriously, especially the hostesses, who are part of what they call the Dilettante Club, with Nicole and another friend, Amanda Lonsdale, 32. The four women started it, says Amy, when they realized "none of us has real hobbies because we have such short attention spans." So every month, they briefly learn a new "skill" -- pole dancing, belly dancing, rock climbing -- then go drinking.

This may help explain tonight's lebkuchen, which are large gingerbread-y cookies often served at Oktoberfests, traditionally printed with sweet sayings such as "Be Mine" or "I Like You."
"We do 'The Aristocrats' version of that," warns Kathleen, referring to the 2005 movie that revolves around the retelling of a dirty joke. The lebkuchen baked and handed out by the German-speaking Amanda are large and heart-shaped, with German phrases written in blue frosting. Many cookies include the word "wiener" and plenty of extraneous umlauts, and all are probably unprintable but one. It says: "Underpants."

Toward the end of the evening, the party thins out, but a core group remains in the (pseudo) German spirit. A few friends bring out Kathleen's karaoke machine, and Amanda, still wearing her Swiss Miss braids, starts in on Pat Benatar's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot." Then Amanda and her husband, Leon Morse, take an impromptu dip in the pool, followed by Karen, who dives in -- dirty dirndl and all.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

October 2006 Activity -- Ghost Tour

Sunday, October 29, 2006

1. Is this an activity where someone would feel comfortable going alone or is it better to go with a partner?
2. Was it convenient to participate in this activity?
3. Was the activity a good value based on the registration fee? Tour was just $10. It was a one-hour walking tour, the evening was a perfect fall evening
4. What were the participant demographics?
5. Logistics
6. What should one wear/bring to the activity for maximum enjoyment?
7. Level of physical fitness required (if applicable) -
8. Should participants be there early to get a good seat? Meet people? Get set up?
9. Size group that could be accommodated (if you wanted to organize a group outing).

We ended the evening at Bilbo Baggins in Old Town. Wow! What a great beer menu. And, the food was fantastic.

Friday, September 01, 2006

September 2006 Activity -- Belly Dancing

Saturday, September 9, 2006
Sahara Dance
4631 Wisconsin Avenue
Washington, DC

I must admit, we were somewhat skeptical going into an activity where the instructor had written an e-mail to us prior to class with a signature of "Happy Shimmies." However, the "Happy Shimmies" woman proved to be probably the best instructor we've come across in this whole dilettante world we've created. Of course, she had an amazing belly-dancer body, and this, combined with full-length mirrors around the perimeter of the room, made us that more anxious to follow up this activity with a lot of margaritas.

But I digress...she was really helpful and didn't make us feel like dorks with no rhythm. She broke down all the movements and explained them in a way that was easy to understand and made sense. And, she made it all really fun. Plus -- we got to wear scarves around our waists that had those jangling coins on them! Seriously...other than a tiara and a feather boa...what could be better? (I think I just described a drag queen's start-up kit.)

Best of all, the class lasted just an hour. Long enough for us to realize that belly dancing is a workout and not as easy as it looks, and long enough to be able to put moves together into something that resembled a belly dance. Just about the perfect dilettante activity.

The evening ended with a couple of pitchers of margaritas and some Mexican Food at a place around the corner.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

August 2006 Activity -- Sushi Making

Obi Sushi
1771 Library Street, Reston, VA 20190 703.766.SUSHI (7874)
As this activity was located in suburban Reston, Virginia, we forced Amanda out of her urban comfort zone into the Stepford Fabulousness of Reston Town Center.
There were maybe 12 or 14 people signed up for this class...we were all seated at two long tables that faced each other, with the instructor's table situated at the head of the room where we could see him demonstrate.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

July 2006 Activity -- Segway Tour of DC

Segway Tour of Washington, DC
July 2006
Cost: $65/person for 3 hour tour (plus a possible additional $500 if American Express was not the best credit card company on the face of the earth)

It was a dark and stormy night...

We headed into DC to meet Dilettante Amanda at the Segway place. Due to the weather and traffic, we were running a few minutes late, so Amy and Nicole dropped me off so that I could register us while they found parking. As I was making my way up the five steps to the Segway place, I tripped and fell up the stairs and stubbed my toe. (Cue dramatic music indicating foreshadowing here.)

Our tour guide, Steve, was a young guy with a great attitude and we liked him immediately. What we did not like was that we had to wear helmets and bright blue rain coats like the rest of the dork patrol on this tour. (As fun as Segways can be, there is no possible way to look cool while riding one.)

This three-hour tour started off a little rocky when an elderly gentleman in our group ran into a stopped car at an intersection. We may have rolled our eyes a little bit when this happenend (refrain: dramatic foreshadowing music). From there, we rolled down the streets of DC, stopping occasionally to look at monuments and get a bit of a guided history tour. We also stopped occasionally because I kept falling off my Segway. I fell a total of *three* times. To break it down for you, I've assigned a special rating system that details our tour guide's reaction and the amount of pain I was in.

Fall #1: Tour guide Steve's expression: concerned
Pain Quotient: 1 on a scale of 1 to 5

Fall #2: Tour guide Steve's expression: exasperated/incredulous
Pain Quotient: 4 on a scale of 1 to 5 (I scraped my elbow and bruised my coccyx)

Fall #3: Tour guide Steve's expression: Don't know...he refused to look at me
Pain Quotient: 4 on a scale of 1 to 5 (the Segway kept ramming into my shin)
Damage Quotient: 4 on a scale of 1 to 5 (the Segway handlebar broke completely off and Tour Guide Steve had to drive my Segway back to HQ)

Between falls 2 and 3, we were stopped in front of the White House, where Dilettante Amy seemingly became possessed. She began turning 360s in a tight circle with a maniacal look on her face all while making beeping noises. This sent all of the other dilettantes into fits of hysterics.

Also between falls 2 and 3 (and after I had tried to convince Tour Guide Steve that my Segway was defective, we overheard a smug/nerdy -- "smerdy"? -- member of our group saying sarcastically, "Oh, I'm sure it was a defective SEDGE-way." From that point forward, we could no longer call it a SEG-way. It was (and still is) a SEDGE-way).

After we had locked up the Segways to take a walking tour of the last of the monuments, we went back to the Segways and Steve asked us if we remembered which Segways were ours. Amy deadpanned, "well, we know which one is Kathleen's" (pointing to the one sans a handlebar).

Back at HQ (God, I love saying that), the four of us sat on a bench like so many juvenile delinquents waiting for their parents to pick them up after drinking too much Milwaukee's Best and cruising around in a Chevette (at least that's what we imagine it would feel like...obviously none of us has a frame of reference for such a thing.)

I was forced to fill out a damage report saying that I would pay $500 to cover the repair of the Segway ("forced" because they had my credit card number on the reservation...there was nothing I could do at the time).

Over time, my coccyx healed, AmEx disputed (and won!) the charges, and the other Dilettantes have never again mentioned my utter lack of coordination. (Had you going there for a minute, didn't I?)

Necessary beers and food followed at the Old Ebbitt Grill (thank God for cushioned seats.)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

June 2006 Activity -- Cancelled!

Due to many unforseen circumstances (e.g. the trapeze place in McLean went out of business, ear infections, graduation parties, rain delays, travel schedules, etc.) the June activity was cancelled.

Monday, May 01, 2006

May 2006 Activity -- Rock Wall Climbing

We showed up at the Sportrock facility (housed in an industrial park) and checked in. You have to sign a detailed waiver saying that when the equipment fails and you plummet to your death, it is not their fault. You also have to sign something saying that you have forfeited the right to a helmet. None of us signed this, and were then given some kind of weird explanation about how we needed to sign it -- so we did, and also got helmets. (huh?)
Our instructor (self-nicknamed G.I. Joe according to him nametag), (nicknamed Captain Sideburns by us), got us our shoes and helmets and directed us to a lounge to wait for class to begin.
Our group decided to pick some fun nicknames for ourselves -- Nicole was "Lara Croft", Amanda was "Billy" (as in billy goat) and Amy went with "Spiderwoman." Being the creative marketing type, I went with "Kathleen" (as in "Kathleen").
We quickly discovered that you apparently cannot just go to class and learn how to climb a wall. You have to go through a 2-hour session on "belaying" -- which is essentially learning how to tie knots and be the anchor person for the person who is climbing the wall. Ironically, after 2-hours of learning to tie knots and not doing anything active...we ALL were climbing the wall. (Jokes about "being at the end of our ropes" also fit in nicely here.)
Captain Sideburns claimed up front that he was "sarcastic." This should always serve as a warning. Anyone who describes themselves as anything is generally the polar opposite of what they claim to be. (Especially those who describe themselves as "classy" or "zany" or "not currently in the midst of a herpes flare-up.") Turns out C.S. was actually an instructor who talked quickly, had little patience, was very intense and used a method of negative reinforcement coaching.
Anyway, we went through the Figure 8 knot, the backup overhand knot and all of the safety checks about a trillion times. C.S. kept stressing, "Safety, safety, safety", yet, curiously, when it was Amanda's turn to climb and she asked for chalk because her hands were slipping, he told her that "climbers usually have chalk on their hands, but you guys don't need to use it". (again, huh?)
I think it was at this point that I asked if we could take pictures. When he said, "yes", I said, "I'm glad...I was a little worried that you'd say no and you kinda scare me because you're a little intense.". Well, he was apparently also a little sensitive, as he must have repeated that I thought he was "intense" many, many times thereafter.
Anyway, when we finally did get to the climbing portion of this activity, I think we all felt that there had been significant instruction in belaying, and very limited instruction in the actual climbing. That, coupled with the fact that other amateurs were the belayers, did not instill us with a great sense of confidence while scaling a huge wall. We all pretty much went up about 7 or 8 feet -- although Nicole kicked ass and went up more than 10 (and was only stopped by not being able to find another grip once she got up there -- she was not scared at all!)
The activity ended, as they all do, with some drinking. This time at the Lost Dog Cafe in Arlington. As it turns out, drinking is the only activity that we've maintained a consistent level of interest and skill in throughout this process.

Activity: Rock Wall Climbing
Date/Time/Location: Wednesday, May 3rd, 7:00-9:00pm, SportRock, Alexandria VA

Saturday, April 01, 2006

April 2006 Activity -- Pole Dancing, yes...Pole Dancing

Activity: Pole Dancing
Date/Time/Location: Sunday, April 9th

I have a whole new respect for strippers. And I had a pretty healthy respect for them to begin with. This pole dancing thing is not easy. As my mom used to say, "if it was easy, everyone would do it." Although, I don't think she was referring to pole dancing at the time.
Our instructor was a gorgeous woman named "Ki". We all admitted later that we spent an inordinate amount of time staring at her butt -- and we're all straight. The woman had a body that would not quit and she was a great dancer.

We warmed up with a little hula hooping. Amanda "Hips" Lonsdale and Nicole "Swivel" Bono showed their stuff, both claiming to have never done this before. Whatever...Amy and I couldn't really get the hang of it, even though my mother won the "best hula hooper in the world" contest back in high school. (Don't be too impressed -- the world was a lot smaller then.)
After that, we practiced our "walk" around the pole. This involved a lot of strutting and a lot of rhythm.
We learned different ways to move down the pole, including the "fireman", the "fairy", and some other moves. This required all kinds of arm strength, rhythm and learning to time how to snatch the ones out of our garter belts while keeping in step with the music. (Kidding. Mostly.)
This was definitely the hardest workout I've had while wearing high heels (that I'd share in a blog, anyway.)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

March 2006 Activity -- Strong Beer Tasting & Lecture

Activity: Strong Beer Tasting & Seminar

Date/Time/Location: Saturday, March 11th, 6:30-11:30pm, Northwest Washington, DC

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

February 2006 Activity -- Making Handmade Chocolates

Activity: Making Handmade Chocolates
Date/Time/Location: Sunday, February 5th, 12:00-2:30pm, Northwest Washington, DC

1. Is this an activity where someone would feel comfortable going alone or is it better to go with a partner? You'd probably want to attend this with at least one friend, as there are very few (if any) single attendees. However, if you are a very outgoing person and are trying to meet people, there is ample time to talk to others at your table.
2. Was it convenient to participate in this activity? Registration on the tastedc web site was fantastically easy. The venue itself (in the house of the tastedc owner) was fairly easy to find because we were all familiar with the area, but may throw others off who are looking for more of a commercial space.
3. Was the activity a good value based on the registration fee? The activity fee was steep ($65) for the 2 1/2 hours -- although it did include unlimited wine and champagne and chocolate samples.
4. What were the participant demographics? There were more women than men and it seemed to be a young-ish crowd (late 20's/early 30's)
5. Logistics: Parking was street parking, and easy in this residential area. The venue itself was rather cramped. Because this takes place in the living space of the TasteDC owner, folding tables are set up in his living room, sunroom and dining room. This makes for cramped quarters. Also note: you will be using the owners personal bathrooms.
6. What should one wear/bring to the activity for maximum enjoyment? N/A
7. Level of physical fitness required (if applicable) : N/A
8. Should participants be there early to get a good seat? It's a good thing we arrived early, as there is a huge difference in visibility depending on where you sit. We got a table right up front and were able to see and hear the chocolate demonstration very well. There is a TV monitor set up that broadcasts the seminar as it is happening, but it was hard to see, and was constantly interrupted by the Taste DC owner talking about wine and promoting his company. Annoying. You may also want to get there early to talk to others at your table.
9. Size group that could be accommodated (if you wanted to organize a group outing. Any size.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

January 2006 Activity -- Civil War Dancing

Activity: Civil War Dance Class
Date/Time/Location: Thursday, January 19th, Gadsby's Tavern Old Town Alexandria, VA
Ever wondered what Civil War re-enactors do in the off-season? Go to Civil War dance class, it appears. (Spoiler alert for any re-enactors that may be reading this -- the North won). I used to work with a guy who did Civil War re-enacting as a hobby. He used to whine about not being able to meet women.'re spending every weekend with a bunch of other guys, wearing woolen underpants and pretending you've never heard of American Idol. I'm sure that there are chicks somewhere that find that hot, I just don't know that you'd want to date them.
I digress. The Civil War dance class was actually pretty fun.

1. Is this an activity where someone would feel comfortable going alone or is it better to go with a partner? Definitely would be more comfortable attending with a partner and/or friends, although not mandatory. Is it easy to meet people at this activity? You do end up dancing with everyone in the class...although other than at breaks or at the end of the class, there is really no time for socializing. Note: there is a LOT of touching of strangers while dancing. If you have an issue with this (as some of us did), this may not be for you
2. Was it convenient to participate in this activity? Registration was very easy, however, the venue was very difficult to find. The class is held in the museum attached to the Tavern and there were no lights on in the museum, nor were there any signs indicating where the class was held. We had to search for about 15 mnutes to find the class, which could have been easily remedied with a few well-placed signs.
3. Was the activity a good value based on the registration fee? The fee was only $12 which covered about 3 hours of dance instruction -- a very good value for the money.
4. What were the participant demographics? Even mix of men and women and a pretty good distribution of ages.
5. Logistics - parking was a little difficult -- about what you'd expect in Old Town Alexandria on a Thursday night. Street parking is available, it just requires a little patience. The venue itself was beautiful -- a historic ballroom with wooden floors, a fireplace, and leaded glass windows.
6. What should one wear/bring to the activity for maximum enjoyment? Comfortable clothing and shoes -- you'll work up a sweat and need to have comfortable footwear to master steps and be able to dance comfortably.
7. Level of physical fitness required (if applicable) - need to be in reasonably good shape as this does provide somewhat of a workout.
8. Should participants be there early to get a good seat? Meet people? Get set up? Getting there a few minutes early is a good idea to ensure you can find the place. You may also want to chat with some of the others. There is no set up time necessary.
9. Size group that could be accommodated (if you wanted to organize a group outing). Any.